Reclaiming Malls: How About a High-Speed Rail Station?

A Texas mall that opened in 1968 and largely closed ten months ago has been picked by Texas Central Partners as the Houston terminal of the Dallas-to-Houston high-speed rail. The site is far from downtown and distant from public transit.

February 8, 2018, 5:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

The Texas Bullet Train appears to forgo one of the great advantages of high-speed rail: easy access from downtown to train terminals, on both ends of the line as well as the one intermediate stop. 

The 45-acre site of Houston's Northwest Mall, which operated for almost half a century before largely closing last March, may see new life with the announcement Monday by Texas Central Partners (TCP) and Houston-area elected officials that it has been selected "as its preferred site for the southern terminal" of the 240-mile Dallas-to-Houston high-speed rail line, reports Dug Begley for the Houston Chronicle. Three renderings of the station are available in the article.

The announcement was timed to coincide with a public hearing Monday night in Cypress [unincorporated community in Harris County, pop. 123,000] on the high-speed rail line, where critics lined up to lament the plan, which calls for trains on elevated tracks.

The site, about eight miles northwest from downtown Houston, was one of three that TCP was considering, though the other two were near the aging mall, reports Brandon Formby for The Texas Tribune.

The chosen location is about 1.5 miles from Northwest Transit Center, a major bus hub and the closest public transportation connection. Despite that distance, the company said in a prepared statement Monday that the station will provide “convenient, efficient and direct” connections to the Houston METRO transit system.

Texas Central President Tim Keith said the company chose the aging mall, which only has a few open stores left, because of its proximity to existing roads and highways.

As for the southern, Dallas station, "Texas Central said the terminal will be built on a largely vacant 60-acre plot south of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in the revitalized Cedars neighborhood, near the Interstate 30 and Interstate 35 interchange," states the company's Jan. 29 press release [pdf]. 

The 90-minute ride from Dallas to Houston will have only one intermediate stop, in Brazos Valley near Texas A&M University, reports The Jewett Messenger on Jan. 29. [See map of route showing all three stations].

Texas Central said the terminal will be built on 60 acres in the Roans Prairie area of Grimes County, ideally located along Highway 30 and just west of Highway 90, about equidistant between College Station and Huntsville.

"The project, expected to cost between $15 billion and $18 billion to build, must receive federal approval to proceed, even though it is privately funded," adds Begley for the ChronicleConstruction should begin next year.

Hat tip to Lauren Gardner of POLITICO Morning Transportation.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 in Houston Chronicle

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